Asian Games: India face Korea test in men's hockey semi-final
Looking to end a 16-year-old gold drought, the Indian men's hockey team faces a tough South Korea test in the semi-finals of the 17th Asian Games, here on Tuesday.
Incheon: Looking to end a 16-year-old gold drought, the Indian men's hockey team faces a tough South Korea test in the semi-finals of the 17th Asian Games, here on Tuesday.
The Sardar Singh-led side came back well after losing a tense third Pool B game against Pakistan 1-2 to put it across China 2-0 in their fourth and last league match to qualify for the last-four at the Seonhak hockey stadium.
India, who last won a gold in the 1998 Bangkok edition under Dhanraj Pillay's captaincy, are once again looking for a top finish and gain a direct entry into the 2016 Rio Olympics.
However, a lot of concerns lie in all departments of their game.
Their defense is still not steady in the face of speedy thrusts and the weakness was evident against a skillful Pakistan side.
The Indian attack also lacks a real 'livewire' approach and the midfield has still not exercised the authority required at this level.
India are depending on earning penalty corners to move ahead in matches, a dangerous trend, and with ace drag-flicker Rupinderpal Singh injuring his groin in the second game against Oman has really not been up to the mark.
India are thus leaning on V R Raghunath to bail them out when the chips are down.
The fact that Sunil, Chinglensana Singh, Danish Mujtaba and Birendra Lakra have just one field goal each to their name even after playing against minnows like Oman and Sri Lanka tells its own tale.
The Indian forwards just run out of ideas when in sight of the target and lack imagination in beating the rival defensive line when the chance opens up.
Rupinder still remains the top scorer for the team with 6 goals to his credit, scored in the first two games, while Raghunath has scored five, from penalty corners and penalty strokes.
Four-time gold medal winners Korea can just not be taken lightly and have prowess in both field-goal scoring as well as in penalty corner essays.
Drag-flick expert Jang Jonhyun, who has already fired 5 goals from short corner awards, besides notching up one-field goal and a penalty stroke strike, is the leading goal scorer of the tournament so far.
Another frontline player Nam Hyunwoo, who is a real threat to the Indian defense, will be the man to be marked tightly with his penchant for scoring when even a whiff of a chance arises. He has notched up six field goals so far.
He has been backed up in the forward line by Yoo Myosik (4 field goals) and the Indian defense might have a real tough task before them to deny these two speedy and skillful players entries into their 'D'.
The Indian team's think tank will be hoping that the defense stands up to the Korean threat and take them to its 12th Asiad final.